Inhale the North Sea spray as you walk
The north-east coast of England bordering the North Sea is the starting point for your hike, but it is only a small part of the future England Coast Path, a walking trail which follows the English coastline for around 4,500 kilometres. When the sections have been connected up, this national trail will be the longest coastal path in the world!
After landing in Edinburgh, you leave the Scottish border and the city of Berwick behind you and drive for one hour southwards to the Victorian lighthouse of St Mary's Island. In your boots, you cross the rocky pathway to this white beacon dominating a pocket-sized island, accessible only at low tide. Struck by the impact of the site, you stride along a sandy beach stretching out alongside cliffs covered in verdant meadowland. This wild coastline takes you next to the town of South Shields. Five minutes from the sea front, you go back in time as you arrive at the Roman fort of Arbeia. This former supply base for the military camps on Hadrian's Wall fascinates you with its reconstructed monumental west gate, its excavated remains and its treasures exhibited in the adjacent museum. If you are passing through in the summer, period reconstructions and fun activities will transport you back to the times of the Roman Empire.
Your first day in England finishes with a delicious dish of roast cod, potatoes and brown shrimp butter, a speciality of the elegant pub The Staith House, in North Shields, a town on the north bank of the River Tyne. On the opposite side, the charming hosts Scott and Liz, welcome you to their romantic retreat by the sea, the Clifton Hotel.
Arbeia Roman Fort
South ShieldsUnited Kingdom
+44 191 277 1410
57 Low Lights
+44 191 270 8441
The Clifton Hotel & Coffee shop
101 Ocean Road
+44 191 455 1965
Discover some migratory birds and relive Great Britain's naval saga
On the following day, a gust of freedom blows you southwards. On the way you pass the disused Souter lighthouse, encircled in red and white, bypass the port of Sunderland, then park your vehicle in front of the lively Seaham marina. The East Durham Heritage Centre provides you with all the tourist information you need. This part of the coastline, which extends to the town of Hartlepool, has drawn a line over its mining past and rediscovered its wild side. Cast your eye over the lifeboat George Elmy, whose shipwreck in 1962 led to the construction of electronic lighthouses along the treacherous Durham coastline. In the friendly bistro The Lamp Room, you order mussels with tomato and chorizo. A craving for something sweet draws you to the Lickety Spit creamery, where you succumb to a sundae accompanied by a macchiato with caramel coffee syrup.
The natural protected area of Crimdon Dene comes in handy to work off these excesses. Enjoy a walk along its sand dune-edged beach. If you approach the fenced off area, you will be able to pick out some small terns, which take refuge there from April onwards to breed. These nesting birds are amongst the rarest in the country.
The atmosphere changes at the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Hartlepool, where a fully reconstructed 18th century maritime port will help you relive Great Britain's glorious naval past. On the quayside, you will be amazed by the trompe-l'œil facades, creating the illusion of buildings of the era. You witness some musketry and cannon shooting demonstrations, as in the time of Lord Nelson during the battle of Trafalgar. Then you climb aboard HMS Trincomalee, the oldest European warship still afloat, the authentic glory of the British navy open to visitors.
The Lamp Room
20 North Terrace
+44 191 903 3747
National Museum of the Royal Navy Hartlepool
Immerse yourself in the England of yesteryear, from seaside resorts to picturesque villages
Set off next for Saltburn-by-the-Sea. In this small Yorkshire town with an old-world charm, you can admire the elegant turn of the century villas, lined up overlooking the sea. The Saltburn Cliff Lift, a funicular railway from another era, offers a steep descent to a jetty typical of seaside resorts in the south of England. The sea air gives you an appetite. Before sitting down to eat, check your luggage into an ornate room in the Brockley Hall boutique hotel. This majestic neo-Gothic red-brick building is home to a stylish restaurant where you can tuck into a refreshing ceviche of scallops, kimchi, coriander and mussels mousse followed by superb ricotta and truffle ravioli.
After a cosy night, your exploration of the Yorkshire coast moves on to Staithes. A world's end atmosphere pervades this picturesque village surrounded by high red sandstone cliffs. Accompanied by the cries of screeching seagulls, you appreciate the charm of the little houses with their coloured doors, lobster pots and a sandbank where children are fishing for crabs.
Further down the coast is the lively port of Whitby. A mysterious stone silhouette encourages you to climb to the top of the wind-whipped promontory of East Cliff. For almost 700 years, the impressive gothic Whitby Abbey has looked over the town and its coastline. In the visitor's centre based in an old manor house, you become excited about its long history, with the help of an interactive guide and medieval manuscripts. As you explore these troubling ruins, you understand why this monument inspired the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker.
The coastal path leads to the picturesque village of Robin Hood's Bay. Invigorated by this bracing walk, you discover a charming sea front, and winding back streets bustling with life. You settle down on the terrace of a house overlooking the sea: the Fish Box restaurant serves delicious fish and chips, prepared with sustainably caught fish. Why not opt for haddock with some mushy peas?
Your wonderful day ends at Scarborough, the first spa town in the country. You will love this seaside resort, with its ruined castle overlooking the bay, its beach lined with colourful beach chalets and its tiny fishing port where trawlers and pleasure craft are moored side by side. Your gaze is drawn to the Grand Hotel, a relic of the Victorian golden age, which looks out towards the horizon. Next, check out the bucolic atmosphere of the Italian gardens in South Cliff, tucked away in the north of the town. The Crown Spa Hotel, perfectly located on the cliff top, between the beach and the town centre, welcomes you for the night. On the first floor of this imposing neoclassical building, you choose a superior King room with a clear view of the sea. You refresh yourself in the spa with its treatments combining the heat of a sauna with herbs and the bracing coolness of an arctic ice room. Feeling peckish, you head for The Farrier, in the village of Cayton. In this former blacksmith's house converted into a modern pub, your choice falls on the smoked Brie with almonds and rhubarb chutney, followed by roast chicken breast with a caramelised onion puree, lentils and smoked ham.
+44 1287 622179
+44 370 333 1181
Robin Hood's Bay
+44 1947 880595
Crown Spa Hotel
+44 1723 357400
Scarborough, YO11 3RP
+44 1723 861432
Explore a Neolithic site and try your hand at ornithology
The next day, a little detour inland takes you to Rudston cemetery, where a colossal megalith, almost eight metres high, stands amongst the tombstones. You are looking at the tallest standing stone in England. The magnetic presence of this work sculpted near the end of the Neolithic period fascinates you. You find it difficult to imagine that this forty-ton monster of mysterious origin was transported over fifteen kilometres to this point.
You reclaim your sea view at the far east of the Yorkshire coast. As you enter the Spurn National Nature Reserve, the volunteers who supervise the site give you information on the rising waters. The sandy tip of this peninsula pointing into the North Sea is submerged during spring tides. Enjoy a morning walk along this long strip of sand, with the foaming waves on one side and marshland on the other. Like an ornithologist, you creep forward to observe the small passerine birds which stopover in this safe haven. After this bracing walk, a two-hour drive awaits you to cross the Humber, the estuary which marks the border between Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.
On your return to the coast, you cross the nature reserve of Saltfleetby-Theddlethorpe Dunes on foot. You hear a ringing, but there are no churches rising up on the horizon. The rising tide activates a curious installation placed on the sand. This sculpture by the American artist Marcus Vergette is one of the clocks installed on the British coast as part of the Time & Tide Bell project which aims to raise public awareness of global warming and the rise in ocean levels.
This seaside area has other artistic curiosities in store for you, between the small seaside town of Mablethorpe and the village of Chapel St. Leonards. During your pedestrian wanderings, you come across the Bathing Beauties, a series of crazy structures offering a new twist on the traditional beach hut. The curved shape of Jabba blends into the dunes, while the glamorous alcove of Eyes Wide Shut frames the landscape when it is open and offers a pleasant intimate space when shut. There is very recognisable English humour in this work inspired by a glass of gin and tonic!
Continue striding across the golden sand as far as Anderby Creek. On a special type of platform, designed by the artist Michaël Trainor, a “cloud bar” invites you to observe the cumulus and cumulonimbus formations from seats specifically designed for this purpose. Have fun working the rotating mirrors pointing skywards and identifying the celestial phenomena using the guide published by the Cloud Appreciation Society, an organisation opposed to the monotony of clear blue skies.
After this bizarre discovery, your coastal journey finishes in style at The Wash, a vast estuary into which four rivers flow. This protected site is home to the largest nature reserve in England. Open your eyes wide and admire the wildlife. Its marshes offer a safe haven for thousands of birds all year long: Canada geese, geese, plovers, sandpipers, and numerous other migratory birds.
On the east coast of the Wash, you spy the low red chalk cliffs of Hunstanton, a town in Norfolk. The England Coast Path continues along the coastline, but you have to make your way to London, a two and a half hour journey south.
Spurn National Nature Reserve
Spurn Discovery Centre Spurn Head
+44 1964 650144